Former Santa Ana resident Drake Doremus' Douchebag, the critical darling of January's Sundance Film Festival, opens today* at Regency's South Coast Village across from South Coast Plaza. The dramedy is about douchey Sam Nussbaum who, on the eve of his wedding, forces younger brother Tom to embark on a road trip to find Tom's only love, his fifth grade girlfriend Mary Barger. That's also the name of Doremus' girlfriend in the fifth grade at Oak Ridge Private School (then in Santa Ana, now in Orange). The real Mary Barger resides in Newport Beach and, in the interview that follows, she talks about reconnecting with her grade school crush on the eve of Sundance and being along for the Douchebag ride ever since.
(*See the end of this post for details on tonight's screening followed by an audience Q&A with Doremus and Corona del Mar actor Ben York Jones, who plays Tom in his boyhood chum's movie.)
At the time we spoke, 27-year-old Barger, who works at an insurance brokerage in Orange, had just returned from the Douchebag premiere at the Village East Cinema in New York City.
OC Weekly: How was New York?
Mary Barger: It was so fun. We had a really good time.
So, Drake was telling me how he bumped into you just before going to Sundance and how that was the first time he'd seen you in years.
Yeah, we had been talking on Facebook, and he kind of told me what he'd been up to. Later he wrote me and said he had used me as a as character. I didn't believe him. Like, “Sure, I bet you say that to all the girls.” Finally, a long time later, he said, “Look, I have something to show you.” We made plans to meet up at Sundance. And then, randomly, about a week or two before, I think he was meeting his mom in Orange, and I was there eating with my mom and I looked up and said, “That's him!” It was so crazy.
It had been how long since you'd seen him face-to-face?
Fifteen years. I recognized him from that hair. I had seen it on Facebook, so I knew it was him.
- A Douchebag Takes Sundance: OC stage prodigy-turned-filmmaker Drake Doremus brings his 'very personal' movie to Park City, Utah
Had you and Drake gone to elementary school together the whole time at Oak Ridge?
No, he came in the fifth grade. He was only there one year. I think they kicked him out. I knew he had come from other schools and had been thrown out of other schools. He was the bad boy. I don't remember him being thrown out, but that's what he says.
And you still remembered him, all these years later.
Yeah, I remembered his first name, Drake. I forgot his last name. We were talking and I remembered when I dedicated a 10,000 Maniacs song to him.
So, how do you go from that to actually going to Sundance?
He had told me had had a movie there called Spooner. [Editor's Note: Spooner actually played at Salt Lake City's Slamdance, which ran concurrently with Sundance, the year before Douchebag was selected for the Park City festival's dramatic competition.] I saw Spooner and thought, “Wow, this is really good. It looks great and I like the music.” I always wanted to go to Sundance, so when he sent me something that showed it was legit my name was used as one of the characters in Douchebag, it was an excuse to go to Sundance. It was a cool thing to go for, and I got three of my girlfriends to go with me.
Was that the first time you saw the completed Douchebag, that first night at Sundance?
Actually, I had a terrible experience. We got lost on the bus and were totally late. It was supposed to take 15 minutes and it took 1 ½ hours. I saw a little bit of the end. I saw the question and answer period. I came in and he mentioned to the audience how the character is named after me and we all screamed, “Woo!” We were so happy for him.
I heard you, behind me in the audience. So, wait, you never saw the whole . . .
I had to wait until it came to Newport to see the whole thing. [Douchebag played at April's Newport Beach Film Festival.] My whole family went and my girlfriends. Everyone really enjoyed it. We didn't know what to expect, but it was really good, so funny. I was so happy for him. He's really amazing.
Did you think, back in the fifth grade, that Drake would some day grow up to become a movie maker?
[Laughs] I don't think so. He was just the bad boy causing trouble. He was not focused. I don't know what I thought.
Now, one way of looking at it would be he had this story with a character who needed an old girlfriend so, to serve his story, he used the name of his actual fifth grade girlfriend. Or, it could be that Drake's been thinking of you all these years.
I definitely don't think he's been spending time thinking about me. I think he just remembered my name and maybe that I'd dedicated a song to him. It's funny, too, because our school was really small. Everyone knew everyone else from kindergarten. So, for Drake to come in the fifth grade, it was really memorable to all of us. All of us in the class remembered him. He liked another girl for a really long time. We were talking about it in New York, and I said how he was making out with another girl in the fifth grade. He said, "Isn't it funny? I don't remember that girl's name, I remember your name.”
Um . . . are you married?
I have a boyfriend. He just moved here from Australia.
What does he make of all this?
Uh, I think when he first heard about it, he was thinking what you were saying, the second thing about maybe Drake's been thinking about me all this time. I told him no, and he met everyone in New York and thinks Drake is great. He met all the guys and thought they were all great. He was very stoked by the whole situation and happy for everyone involved.
Do you think you'll buy the DVD of Douchebag and show it to your grandkids someday, that you'll say, "Look, your grandma is in this film”?
Maybe. We'll see. There are a lot of cuss words in there.
Oh yeah, huh.
Maybe when they're older.
Speaking of cuss words, I can't believe this was the first time acting for Andrew [Dickler, who plays Sam Nussbaum].
I know, he's so great. Ben [[York Jones]amazing, too. He is also the nicest guy; we hung out a lot since all of this started. They are all so nice, I love them all. That's been the best part of all of this. They are so talented and fun. I'm really glad I got to get reconnected.
Are you going to see Douchebag again in Santa Ana?
Yeah, we're going to go again, with some of other friends, in Santa Monica [[where it opened Oct. 8]en hang out back in Newport Beach again. Yeah, party weekend!
Doremus and Jones participate in the audience Q&A after tonight's 7:30 showing at Regency South Coast Village, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave. (at South Coast Plaza Drive), Santa Ana, (714) 557-5701.